Fiscally-Conservative Self-Funding Public Education Reform for Special Needs’ Students

PROJECT: RATTLESNAKE – An empirically-based educational reform initiative for public schools with special-needs children

FVC Poster - Edited

Michael looks surprised to hear and see a rattlesnake! People absorb information about their environment to make planned and unplanned reactions. Most of these initial interactions arise through interpretation of biological constants (ex.: the rattling tail, an expression of fear). Understanding this cartoonish picture becomes critical to explain a larger plan for educational reform to include multicultural emotional expression identification and (self) regulation in schools. In other words: if you can understand how and why a person may react to a rattlesnake like Michael did (and looks), you will understand the plan to be presented.

GOAL 1: With effective teaching and opportunities to practice, children will correctly learn to 1) name, 2) spot, 3) (self) recognize, and 4) begin to predict others’ emotions (read: build empathy) by studying facial feature expressions. This successful goal would discredit the popular myth that persons with autism lack empathy.

GOAL 2: This education can be funded without levying additional burdens on typical taxpayers. This plan would be (a major, if not first) non-partisan test of the Affordable Care Act’s (“Obamacare”) ability to carry both weight and immediate value.

GOAL 3: Students participating in this educational curriculum may see drops in missed time from school, less bullying (being a bully and being bullied), and perform better in school with effective and reinforced adaptive multicultural emotional coping skills.

Historical Perspective……….

Currently, many public schools build adaptive classrooms to address special needs of their students. Examples include emotional support classrooms, and/or an autistic support classroom. An accredited, supervising instructor wears dual hats as an academic teacher and an emotional pseudo-therapist.

In the past, therapists would visit the school and work with the child. While this provides immediate problem resolution or options, the child’s attention was torn. Should they listen to the teacher and algebra class now, or the therapist offering to help manage some obsessive-compulsive routines? This practice also raises ethical debates about dual payment of services to one child at the same time- the teacher got paid to teach algebra from 9:00-9:45am, which is the same time the therapist is working with a child with OCD issues. Interestingly, both professionals drew from the same government well for quality social services (education and therapy). Therefore, I propose no therapists receiving government funding should compete with public school teachers during traditional school hours. This example should not apply to home-schooling opportunities, because of this option’s more flexible schedule.

Therefore, for about six hours each weekday, students have little access to therapeutic resources. Those children needing more therapeutic help may qualify for in-patient hospitalization which also offers educational components. I offer a way to bridge the gap…


Step & Premise One: Most, if not all students who attend a specially-adapted classroom should qualify for government-funded insurance because of their disabilities. An example of this would be an autism diagnosis. School psychologists may provide an assessment, too.


Step and Premise Two: The Facial Action Coding System (FACS) is a well-researched scientific model to explain the taxonomy (form and shape) of the human face while expressing certain emotions. FACS is multicultural (read: someone who looks angry in Australia will look similar to an angry Alaskan; context may change the emotion, but when angry, these two individuals will pull the same, biologically hardwired muscles in response, like a rattlesnake universally rattles), applies to all genders, cultures, and ages. Like any scientific theory, some detractors point to some minor differences (notably, how the Japanese phenotype differs from non-Japanese persons), but FACS remains well-used and vetted by peer-reviewed scientific journals.


Step and Premise Three: FACS can be studied and taught to other people.


Step and Premise Four: A professional can study and be certified in FACS taxonomies from the progenitors of the scientific theory. This awarded certificate does not expire. Outside study is encouraged. A professional therapist can use a specific behavioral theory* to successfully bill and delivery FACS to clients. I did, with 100% success.

* Please contact me directly about the scientific theory; I don’t want to bore readers, now.


Step and Premise Five: Public schools have access to medical insurance data about its students. More importantly, public schools have access to medical insurance data and diagnoses of students who qualify for special-needs adaptations.


Step and Premise Six: Most professionals offering therapist services also have access to medical insurance data and the client’s diagnoses. This is how many therapists and their businesses get paid. Most therapists hold nothing more than a postgraduate degree in Human Services or related fields. Many teachers could also moonlight as therapists with the right educational degree.

Step and Premise Seven: Therapeutic billing often occurs in fifteen-minute chunks. Group therapy rates are typically smaller per-hour fee, but with more than just an individual session at a higher per-hour rate. Let’s assume that the minimum fee for group therapy services was the same hourly wage as a therapist’s annual income, or about $20/hour. Rest assured, some therapists can and could bill higher rates depending on the number of clients in a group, because of the additional, more-than-$20/hr commitment to manage and report on the group’s progress. For convenience, and to reinforce the larger secondary gain of this reformation, I will use a base rate of only twenty dollars per hour, or $5 for fifteen minutes of group work. Remember, insurance billing is typically done in segments.


Step and Premise Eight: Train and certify special-needs’ classroom teachers in FACS.


Step and Premise Nine: Devote fifteen minutes of each daily public school special needs classroom to facial feature and emotional recognition. This instruction will convey ideas behind FACS, including universal vocabulary (read: “anger” or “sadness” instead of just “upset”), using less than a dozen universal emotions, and is reinforced throughout the year. Other examples include role-play with individuals or facial-feature recognition puppets.


Step and Premise Ten: 15 minutes x 5 days in school x 4 weeks in school = 5 hours of group therapy billing. 5 hours x $20/hr (See #7, above) = $100 of extra dollars infused into the special needs classroom. The teacher loses no money because of the salary status, but could be asked to do less intensive assignments to best manage their working time.


Step and Premise Eleven: Bill third party payers (i.e.: insurance, “Obamacare”) for the group work done about emotional regulation. This work addresses common emotional challenges, teaches pro-social skills sets not being taught (or not taught with efficacy, or  uniformity, or follow-up care) in many public schools, and never introduces new medication management as a coping strategy for this work. Most public schools should have access to payment portals for third party payers.


Step and Premise Twelve: Spotting a rattlesnake before it bites is a good goal. Students will be better equipped to spot universal social cues, and how to responsibly respond. Implement these steps, with whatever financial considerations and investments needed, to build an insulated funding stream protected from federal and state educational budget cuts. Train and certify teachers. Bill nationalized health care for the services already planned in budgets. Bravely question new legal stances on national health care’s ability to perform without voting politics. Raise the standard of education for special needs classrooms to include the social elements of their school days.

CONCLUSION: We respect diversity, including special needs considerations. Often segregated from their typical peers, many children with special needs lack frequent ad hoc, impromptu socialization opportunities. Some interventions, like scripting social conversations, only become effective when the planned response matches the prompt. This plan is subject to flexible demands. I used bare-minimum examples to show potential cost-effectiveness investments’ returns. Perhaps billing can only occur in actual hour-long increments, per insurance payers. Perhaps the rate of group work is only x% of the minimum quoted. Perhaps only some of what I propose actually holds water, but I’m respectfully asking for any contributions and analysis of this work by persons willing to help this idea, in even-modified forms, to contribute their thoughts about what works or does not work, and why. Thanks in advance. I cannot clearly convey how important this idea is to me, and how anxious I feel about being so vulnerable. I’m going to need help. Can and will you help?


Contact Information:

Email   angie@faceValue.US   with the  Subject: “FACS in Education”

Copyright 2015, Autism at Face Value                                                                       

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